Monthly Archives: October 2012

Canyons and beaches

A rough guife to where we’ve been this week.

After Los Barriles we prepared ourselves to go to the big tourist and resort areas of Los Cabos (meaning “the capes”). It’s made made up of San Jose Del Cabo and the Cabo San Lucas. Loads of huge ‘all inclusive’ resorts but not that many campgrounds, surprise surprise! We did manage to get a crappy expensive one for a night. We explored the tourist areas and beaches and could see why it would be so popular – beautiful!

The beach and resorts at Cabo San Lucas (we had to sneak through a resort to get here)

We kept on going however and made it to the more quiet Pacific Coast and Todos Santos, famous for surfing and big waves. We even stayed at a real ‘surf camp’ but didn’t get inspired to try it.

The last of the 191 baby turtles released that morning

We returned to La Paz on Tuesday to arrange our ferry tickets to get to the mainland. No sweat as we had already checked out the office and price plus gotten our permits for Ginger long ago at the border. We arranged for the ferry for 2 days later, Thursday, and then headed to hang out on the beach in La Ventana while we waited. Tough life! It was recommended by a Canadian couple (Albertans we met while waiting out the hurricane) and did not disappoint. There were probably at least 25 other RV’s all decked out for the impending season of wind. Mostly retirees and all avid wind surfers or kite surfers plus they biked, played volleyball, etc… Super active bunch. We stuck to our biking and swimming but did join them for their happy hour and got some good advice for our travels.

Finding private beaches on our bikes

More beautiful beaches in Mexico!

We made it to the ferry on Thursday and it left on time at 2:30pm and everything! It was a 6+ hour ride but really comfortable, except for a bit of wave action – blagh. Having a margarita probably didn’t help matters. We got off about 10pm and, taking many people’s advice, found a spot in the ferry terminal parking lot to settle in for the night. Secure and surprisingly quiet once all the trucks left.
Friday we drove east in search of a suitable camping site. We did a drive by on two RV parks that looked all closed up/atrocious but eventually did find a hotel that also had a few spots for RV’s. By no means was it flash! They opened up a room for us to use the facilities (only cold water!). We arranged to leave the van there for a couple of nights while we took the famous Chihuahua al Pacífico (ChePe for short) train into Copper Canyon. A 7 hour ride.

A quick stop for lunch

The Copper Canyon is overall larger than Grand Canyon and has some deeper areas with 6 rivers all draining into the Sea of Cortez. And it was chilly up there, with a low of about 4 C! We stayed for 2 nights and did a bit of exploring.

Checking out the local handicrafts

Christine on the edge

Another edge walk

Chrsitine and Copper Canyon

Catching the ‘Teleferico’ into the Canyon

Exploring around the canyons

The native people here are Tarahumara/Rarámuri. They are famous for their ability to run long distances, historically running up to 320km in a single session over a couple of days! They have a famous ultramarathon here every year. It was the weekend and there were lots of celebrations and activities including running races for every age, shape and size. Some even wore the traditional running garb.

A local runner, with shoes made from old car tires

Trying the local foods – Great!

We were reunited with the van on Monday and left for Mazatlan early Tuesday morning. We got there in time so we could check out a service station that had bee recommended on the Internet. American trained mechanic with excellent English. That’s what we’re in need of because we require some brake work in the front and our temperature gauge has recently gone beserk.

She is with the mechanics now….  Wish us luck!

The beach and sunset in Mazatlan

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Hurricane… What Hurricane?

After our drive through the desert we were very happy to see some beautiful beaches on the east coast of the Baja Peninsula.  And extremely happy to see that we could camp within metres of the water.

Our beach on the East coast

Our camp setup on the beach

with beautiful sunsets (This picture is especially for Elaine!)

We spent a couple of nights here at Santispac Playa Beach, just south of Mulége, and met some really nice Americans (this was also the scene of the odd Roy Orbison puppet show at the beach bar!).  John was a particularly friendly guy, who had been on the beach for a couple of months while sorting out a lease on some local land – he had a lot of great advice, including where to find wi-fi and great tacos in the local village . John was also the first to mention that he wanted to see the weather report and check how “Hurricane Paul” was developing…. unfortunately this was all news to us….. Hurricane? What hurricane??

So on Tuesday morning we had to think about our hurricane strategy… most of the locals recommended we hunker down for a few days and let the weather pass, but our hurricane guru John ( he’s from Florida) thought we’d be fine to head further South, where we might miss the brunt of the storm. So, we packed up and headed down the road. We initially had quite a bit of rain on the drive, which just got heavier, as well as the wind picking up significantly. The next major town was Loreto, which we managed to make before the true force of the storm hit. We did have to drive through a couple of small rivers across the road, but nothing too serious.

Water over the main highway – we got through this one

Loreto was exactly where the hurricane decided to cross the peninsular. Oops!
In Loreto we found everything closed with windows taped up. We parked Ginger in the flooded main street, and settled down to wait out the storm (ie, we napped, and Dave tried to deal with a nasty Margarita hangover).

Flooded roads in Loreto

The main street in Loreto

After our afternoon siesta we decided to be tourists and had a lovely wander around town in the hurricane.

Christine exploring in gale force winds

When it looked as though the water levels might be dropping we decided to try our luck on the highway again, as our intended destination was only 13km further south down the road.
On the way we had to deal with many wash outs across the road, waiting for up to an hour or two at each one to see if the water would drop enough to let us pass.

Our first road wash out – we made it through this one

The waits were not so bad, as the locals were out in full force to see the effects of the flooding and try their luck crossing the rapids – some luckier than others!

One unlucky (or stupid?) local – we made it through this one too

We managed to get Ginger through a couple of these flooded sections but were eventually turned back by a washed out bridge with boulders washed all across the road.

The washout that turned us around

We headed back to Loreto in the dark and eventually found a nice hotel that would let us park and sleep in their carpark, as long as we had breakfast in their restaurant the next morning – good deal!

The local river right after the hurricane

The same river about 12 hours later

An early start with pancakes and brewed coffee, and then back on the highway… Only to be told by the army guys that the highway would be closed for at least another 12 hours. This time we managed to find a way to the RV park (a dirt road around the back of the airport) and enjoyed a quiet day by the pool, and walking the beach checking out the washed up debris.

The debris strewn beach in town

The next morning (Thursday) we hit the road about 11am only to find we couldn’t actually get to the beach that we had hoped to stop at, as the dirt road was washed out … So an instant decision was made to continue to La Paz. An easy drive, but a good few hours away.

Baja is still beautiful though!

On the way into downtown La Paz we spotted a Walmart, so swerved across 3 lanes of traffic and straight into their carpark. We stocked up on everything. It was about 6pm when we left Walmart and headed to the local RV park that Christine had looked up. It was of course closed down. Oh crap! It was 8:30pm when we finally pulled in to an RV park we had spotted on the way into La Paz – though we did have an interesting night drive up the peninsular while looking for other options… New lesson learnt: stick with what you know! Oh, we also learnt that cows and donkeys like to wander onto the road at night as its warmer…
On Friday we headed to a Home Depot and picked up the supplies we thought we might need for our next Ginger upgrade… mosquito screens on the side and back doors.  Since the rains we’ve been eaten alive, Dave especially!  We now have a good supply of netting, industrial Velcro and magnets. This is tomorrows project, so we’ll let you know how it goes.
We are currently in Los Barriles, which is a quaint little fishing village on the East coast.
Christine wants a haircut. We both want to try fish tacos. We both want to chill out on a beach again after being forced into town by the hurricane. Hopefully this is the place!

Beautiful Los Barriles

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Hola Mexico!

We left Grand Canyon and headed towards Joshua Tree National Park. We camped in the park among the Joshua trees and cool rocks. It was quite cool and very deserty. The next day we did a tour of the park, mostly by car and a bit of hiking.

Interesting rock formations and joshua trees

Campsites in the Joshua Tree National Park

Dave checking out the strange trees

Very very bizarre trees!

Cholla cactus gardens

Cholla cactus and the view over the Colorado desert

A flowering Ocotillo

Another green Ocotillo in the desert

We then headed for the coast and San Diego. Enroute we remembered someone telling us about Salton Sea, which is the largest lake in California. Not a natural lake as it was created around 1905 by flooding of the Colorado River and the breaking of a dam. It was a huge tourist attraction in the 40’s and 50’s, with more visitors than Yosemite. But the lake started to become more salty as the years went on and was a bit of a dumping ground for chemicals and pollutants. Needless to say it’s not a very nice place now. It’s a graveyard of old buildings and trailers from the glory days and smells dreadful because all the fish they stocked it with that are dying because it’s too salty for them. We passed through here pretty quick!

Some very dead trailers (caravans) on the lake shore

In San Diego we found a nice RV park a bit north of the city in the Pacific Beach area. It was expensive but had a pool, jacuzzi, laundry and was right on the water. We booked in for 2 nights so we could really celebrate Dave’s birthday on the 10th – the big 38!!! We had a cake and some wine and a great day biking and relaxing. Thai was Dave’s choice for his birthday dinner.

Dave trying hard to wake up for his birthday muffins

Birthday Cake!!

Exploring San Diegos beaches by bike

We made it to Mexico! We crossed over the Tijuana border on Thursday. We were all prepared for the “busiest border in the world” and expected huge wait times. However we pretty much rolled right on through, in fact we rolled too far through and missed getting all our tourist and vehicle permits – ooops. So we parked on the street and a security guy said he’d look after Ginger while we walked back to sort out our stuff. We got our tourist visas and then went on a search for our vehicle importation permit. As luck would have it the office at this border was closed so we had to somehow find our way to the unmarked and obscure office at the Otay de Mesa border crossing, about 20km east. It was a difficult task and I’m still not sure how we found it but we did. Unfortunately our GPS was utterly useless. No sweat with getting Ginger’s permit and we were on our way south shortly after midday. Our goal was the coastal town of Ensenada and we found a gorgeous hotel/RV resort on Esterico Beach complete with pool and jacuzzi.

Enjoying our own RV resort

Another bonus was that we were the only RV’ers in the entire place! Lots of preparations going on there for the big season of snowbirds/nomads coming up though.

Friday we did a bit of shopping at a Walmart of all places! Quite similar to the ones at home except for the taco stand at the entrance. We set out for a short driving day and ended up in San Quintin at a hotel that also has some RV spots with hook ups.

The pacific coast in Baja

Maybe not the best hookups, as Dave was shocked numerous times from the electrical connections, but it did get the fridge cool! We even got in a bike ride to the beach and over the huge dunes.

Christine collecting sand dollars on the beach

We weren’t alone on the beach though as we were approached by a military jeep with mounted machine gun and 5 guys all decked out with camo and bulletproof gear and carrying machine guns. Doesn’t make you feel all warm and fuzzy! We got out of there and went for some yummy Mexican food at the restaurant at the hotel. Our first taste and we were lovin it! Bring on the food!

I think Dave somwhow upset the waiter before he took this photo…

Saturday we went inland from the Pacific coast. We stopped at Mama Espinoza’s which is supposed to be famous for their lobster burritos. Have to admit it was very yummy, with generous lobster meat, but the price maybe inflated for tourists – $15!

Lobster Burritos – YUM!

We got to the desert town of Catalina a couple hours before sunset. Huge cactus and vast desert. We camped down at a ‘campground’ that was just a desert area/parking lot with a couple of trees. There was water and a flush toilet though, all for$7 USD.

Ginger shadowed by a massive cactus

Desert plants

Beautiful desert views

Gas here in Mexico is the cheapest yet! About $0.79/litres. Our most expensive to date is Quebec and California at a high of $1.439/litre.

We’ve also just seen our most bizarre moment to date, at a bar on the east coast of Baja… We went in to find about 50 America retirees watching a puppet show… of a shark in sunglasses… singing only Roy Orbison songs… and they loved it! Though to be fair – after a couple of margaritas it did seem to make a lot more sense!

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On the road again!

This week sucked! We had a couple of crappy days just waiting for Ginger to be fixed at the service station. We stayed at Circus Circus Resort which was pretty below average and is really showing its age. However this did give us the opportunity to see Kã. It was a great Cirque de Soleil show however we both really thought Le Reve had more ‘wow’ moments.

Can you spot the odd one out?

Regarding Ginger, it turns out there was no ECU part around town so we had to order it from Pittsburg. We picked her up Wednesday with much excitement and a happy reunion. This was short lived however, as we only made it approximately 20 km before another catastrophic breakdown on yet another freeway. The service station arranged a tow and we were back in the garage. A new alternator and regulator this time! Yet another Vegas hotel (and more freakin’ buffets!).

Finally on Thursday we got Ginger back and were on our way to the Grand Canyon. She’s running way better and climbing hills like a champ! The service was successful, despite the many breakdowns, and will hopefully mean less issues later on.

We saw the Grand Canyon on Friday!

It was pretty cool although Dave was a bit under-enthusiastic about it all. This may have been due to our dashed dreams of doing the two night Rim to Rim hike we had planned. We had planned to do this early in the week, but all the extra repairs meant we arrived right at the start of a long weekend. We tried for a last minute backcountry permit two early mornings in a row but it was no use and all full. They usually book up 4 months in advance and it’s currently their high season. Maybe next time!

On the edge

Colours of the Grand Canyon

We did a little more exploring of the park by car and then headed South West back towards California and our next destination: Joshua Tree!

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Zion to Vegas

We arrived late afternoon on Tuesday, September 25th and very luckily got the last campsite in the Zion National Park. We were happy!

The view from our campsite

We headed out the next morning on a mission to do 2 trails: Angel’s Landing and The Narrows. Of course Angel’s Landing is the scariest in the park and entails walking all along the top of a rock spine with sheer cliffs on either side. And please let it be known that this was Christine’s bright idea!

Christine all ready to go, with the Angels Landing in the background

It was a 4 hour round trip with most of it going up. We made it to the bottom of the really steep part after going through ‘Walter’s Wiggles’ which is a series of 21 switchbacks. Then the real climb began meaning scrambling up the rocks while holding on to the chains so you don’t fall to your death. Well maybe that’s a bit dramatic but there have been fatalities. Thank goodness none that day!

Dave walking the final ridgeline, with destination behind

Christine hanging on!

Sheer drops!

Clambering back down

Angels Landing done!!

After that we continued up on the park shuttle bus to the end stop and started The Narrows trail. This is a cool one because you are mostly walking in the river water as you are exploring these close canyons. We didn’t have time to do the whole 8 hour round trip but did get a few hours in before the sun started to go down. And before our toes froze!

Exploring the narrows at Zion

Christine river wading

Dave with a big stick

We didn’t stay in the park again as they were fully booked, but started heading back towards Vegas, where we had a big weekend planned.

We got into Las Vegas by noon on Thursday and had a list of things we wanted to accomplish on Ginger before the weekend began. We tried some RV places to see about getting a recommendation for a service station but ended up just picking one at random. They seemed friendly and had lots of experience working on older cars. We booked her in for the whole shebang to be done the following day. We found a nice posh RV resort for the night and were back at the garage by 7:30am. We left Ginger and wandered down the street to the real local casino. Even at 8am it was pretty busy! We wasted time until we went to pick her up at the end of the day after they completed all the maintenance service. We got about 5 minutes down the highway and were midway on a busy exit when she died and wouldn’t start again.

Ginger stuck on the exit ramp…

AAA was supposed to be on their way within 30 minutes but since we were kind of in the middle of the highway that divided 2 tow truck company jurisdictions no one came. Eventually a tow truck came by and recognised that we were in a precarious spot and it was starting to get dark. He nudged us off the exit at least and told us to wait for another tow truck that he called. The next truck came and attempted to get us onto his flatbed but we were too big/heavy.

Ginger being loaded onto the flat bed truck

He called for the bigger truck and again we waited. Eventually we got Ginger on to the big truck which dropped us back off at the service station about 9pm.

We didn’t make it to our fancy Flamingo Hotel on Las Vegas Boulevard until 10pm! Our friends, Glenn and Emma had already arrived from San Francisco and were in the Irish bar waiting for us while watching the AFL final. We were in need of a stiff drink by this time and we started the night off with a “car bomb”. A fun night, finished off with 3am burgers at Caesars.

Saturday started at the already hoppin Flamingo pool, complete with poolside dancers. We enjoyed a few hours here, before heading off to explore the strip.

Poolside at the Flamingo

We had hoped to see the Cirque de Soleil production of KA while we were in town, but unfortunately they were taking a break this weekend, so we booked tickets to see La Reve instead. After an amazing buffet dinner at The Wynn hotel we were all blown away by the show.

Christine loved the dessert buffet

In the La Reve theatre

The theatre is built in a circle around a sunken pool, which is 27ft deep and filled with all sorts of hydraulically driven platforms and water jets. Overhead were numerous trapezes, ropes and wires. Anyway, the acrobatics and performances were simply mind blowing – no cameras allowed though unfortunately.

The girls enjoying a wee margharita

The guys helping the girls with their wee margharitas

Exploring the strip

Watching the famous Bellagio fountains

Sunday was another great day, with time spent by the pool and enjoying the strip. Unfortunately Glenn and Emma had to head back to San Francisco on Sunday night, so we are travelling alone again.
Thanks for the great weekend guys!!!

After a lazy start on Monday morning we called the garage hoping for some good news… Unfortunately they were still trying to find the problem… A couple of calls later and it seems that the problem is the Electronic Control Unit, which they are now trying to source around Las Vegas.
So, we have spent all day aimlessly hanging around the resort and hoping for good news, but expect we’ll be in Vegas for a few more days…. It’s got to be better than breaking down in Death Valley at least!

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